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SBDC @ Santa Fe Community College

From the Artisan Market to the Plaza – It’s now Designs of Erika®.

Erika Eckerstrand has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a needle. Born in Sweden to a family of artists, her mother was a textile instructor and seamstress to the royal family and her father was an inventor. He introduced Erika to throwing pottery at the age of 10, selling their work together to neighbors and friends.

Erika first visited Santa Fe in 1980 and found a town that appealed to her artistic sensibilities. Following many return visits, Erika enrolled at IAIA, becoming their first international graduate. She remained in Santa Fe, and worked in a wide variety of mediums including sculpture, pottery, beadwork and jewelry. Her creations have been featured in galleries and exhibits in both the United States and Sweden. In addition to her keen design sensibility, her Scandinavian heritage gave her a more functional approach to her creations.

She attended the business training for artisans sponsored by WESST to expand her knowledge about running an art-based business. Following an auto accident that left her temporarily disabled, Erika began designing the first of what was to become her iconic collection of bags, accessories and home goods. She worked for a local awning company at the time and was inspired by the woven vinyl fabrics they used. Her designs are sleek and contemporary, artfully balancing style with functionality. Erika began selling her work at the Santa Fe Railyard Artisan Market. Feedback from buyers told her she had a potential business and Designs of Erika was born.

When Erika learned about SBDC, she attended their start up workshop. Nine years later and still working with her consultant, Debbie Collins, she has trademarked her logo and expanded her collection to 15 products in various sizes and fabrics. She has developed an online store and has wholesale accounts all over the country.

Erika maintained a booth at the Railyard Artisan Market for seven years, building her brand and a loyal group of clients. Her most profitable sales were generated by attending other artisan markets throughout the region, traveling extensively.

In March 2016, Erika decided to put down roots and opened her Designs of Erika retail shop at 211, Galisteo Street in the Historic Santa Fe Plaza District. The shop is light and open and filled with colorful bags and accessories. Erika greets her visitors from her sewing machine, where she makes all of her products, engaging with them about her work and tailoring her designs to their needs.

“Debbie has been great to bounce ideas off of”, said Erika. “She challenged me to think bigger about my company, providing valuable resources and helping me learn about the nuts and bolts of wholesale and retail sales. I have seen many special business programs come and go, but the SBDC remains constant – they are always there for me.”

As for the future, Erika would like to expand her production capacity by hiring a shop manager, as well as several more part-time seamstresses to work at her studio. She would also like to grow online sales to the point where they cover her overhead. But right now, she is enjoying this new phase.